Theta-Burst Stimulation Combined with Virtual-Reality Reconsolidation Intervention for Methamphetamine Use Disorder: Study Protocol for a Randomized-Controlled Trial

SOURCE: Frontiers in Psychiatry. 13 (no pagination), 2022. Article Number: 903242.


AUTHORS: Wen Y.; Hao X.; Chen X.; Qiao S.; Li Q.; Winkler M.H.; Yan X.; Wang F.; Wang L.; Jiang F.; Pauli P.; Dong X.; Li Y.

BACKGROUND: Craving associated with drug-related memory is one of the key factors that induce the relapse of methamphetamine (MA). Disruption or modulation of the reconsolidation of drug-related memory may serve as an option for clinical treatment of MA addiction. This protocol proposes to use virtual reality (VR) to retrieve drug-associated memory and then use transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) at the neural circuit that encodes the reward value of drug cues to provide a non-invasive intervention during reconsolidation. We aim to evaluate the effectiveness of TMS treatment after VR retrieval on the reduction of cue reactivity and craving of MA.

METHOD(S): This is a randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled, parallel group trial, targeting participants with MA use disorder aged from 18 to 45 years old. Forty-five eligible volunteers in Shanxi Drug Rehabilitation Center will be recruited and be randomly allocated into three parallel groups, receiving either 1) MA-related cues  retrieval in VR combined with active TMS (MA VR scene + TBS) or 2) sham TMS (MA VR scene + sham TBS), or 3) neutral cues retrieval in VR combined with active TMS (neutral VR scene + TBS). Two sessions of post-VR-retrieval TBS will be scheduled on two separate days within 1 week. The primary outcome will detect the memory-related activity by the  electroencephalography (EEG) reactivity to drug cues in VR scenes. Secondary outcomes are the self-reported MA craving in VR scene, the physiological parameter (cue-induced heart rate) and the scores of psychological questionnaires including anxiety, depression, and mood. All primary and secondary outcomes will be assessed at baseline, 1-week, and 1-month post-intervention. Assessments will be compared between the groups of 1) MA VR scene + TBS, 2) MA VR scene + sham TBS and 3) neutral VR scene + TBS.

DISCUSSION(S): This will be the first study to examine whether the TMS modulation after VR retrieval can reduce self-reported craving and drug-related cue reactivity. It will promote the understanding of the neural circuit mechanism of the reconsolidation-based intervention and provide an effective treatment for MA use disorder patients.